How Soaking In The River Changed Our Lives and Ministries
By John & Paul Sandford
A Word from John
The Fathers blessing currently being poured out at Toronto Airport Christian
Fellowship has been a lifesaver to Paula and me, and to our ministry. When Peter told the
three thousand to repent that times of refreshing may come, it was in the
context of the first glorious outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 3:19) When
this new dimension of the Holy Spirit broke out in 1994 in Toronto, we knew about
repentance; thats the basis of all emotional healing. We knew about the baptism of
the Holy Spirit, and had often repeated the scripture as we taught, Not by might,
nor by power, but by My Spirit
Wed say, Dont minister by
your knowledge and experience, youll run in the flesh. It has to be the Holy Spirit
who is the Counselor and the Healer in our Lord Jesus.
However, to me, theres still nothing more tiring than counseling. Though Paula
and I knew that we were to release the burdens to God, it was always easier to say than to
do. We had become soggy with peoples grief and emotional pain, defiled by the weight
of their sins, and fond of saying, The gunk keeps coming in faster than we can
shovel it up!
Though we didnt know it then, what was missing was the dimension that fell at
Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit and within it the manifest love of the Father.
When we arrived in Toronto, we began to receive prayer. Flat on our backs lying on the
carpet, we began to rejoice as His refreshing River washed away years of accumulated
burdens. We celebrated Isaiahs words, Those who wait for the Lord will gain
new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will walk and not get tired,
they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)
Now, even though we sometimes get physically weary, we dont accumulate a backlog
of burdens; instead, we bounce back refreshed. Friends tell us we look years younger, and
others marvel and say, How can you keep up such a schedule? We can tell you
that without experiencing the Fathers River of love that began flowing over us in
Toronto, we couldnt even have survived, much less have felt this great.
Fruit Of Emotional Healing
These arent the only benefits of this River of blessing; there have been many
others. We have found that experiencing His love and emotional healing go hand in glove.
Before we often saw fear block people from seeing and renouncing their sins and sinful
practices. Now we are seeing the perfect love of the Fathers blessing cast out fear
and transform peoples lives so much more quickly than we did before. And then the
more they are healed, the more easily and fully they can receive the Fathers love.
And the more they are filled with His love, the more healing they can receive, as love and
healing spiral upwards into wholeness.
The Holy Spirit is like water. It leaks out of people with fractured hearts. They
cant maintain either their walk or the sense of His presence. But inner
sanctification and transformation build the solid walls of character that can hold the
fullness of Who God is.
Healing revelation of Jesus flows on the currents of Gods love. We have long
known that truth wounds and kills when harshness or mere fleshly compassion carry the
freight of it rather than the River of His love. Without Gods undergirding love, we
fail to speak the truth to one another in a way that edifies. Both the
sufferer and the healer can burn out in the process of healing when they bypass this
What Was Lacking
Before we wondered what was lacking. Although we were seeing transformed lives and the
fruit was good, it came at a heavy price-our own sanity! Although Jesus had said His yoke
is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30), the burden we were carrying
wasntuntil we came to Toronto. Its not Toronto. Its what God has
powerfully birthed there. Now, this new inner fountain of His love continuously refreshes
And we love to go back for more. We joyously run in the Spirit for months and months,
and then come back to Toronto for another frolic in the River. It reminds us of the words
of that grand old hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Oh what peace we
often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to
God in prayer. Thats the secret for us now, experiencing prayer through the
power of His presence. Now it is an extremely important part of our lives, refreshing us
as we go. Although we sometimes still grow weary, by receiving soaking prayers
through our loving friends at Toronto we now experience re-refreshing so we
can go at it again.
A Word from Paula
It is wonderful to be given permission in Toronto, even encouraged, to stay on the
carpet and soak, and to drink as much as we can from His presence without being disturbed
or feeling responsible to do any more than adore Him. At home we can truly rest in His
presence, listening to music or enjoying the silence, and feel refreshed, but only for a
little while. We find ourselves being continually interrupted by faxes, phones, mail and
schedules. Often we have just begun to relax when some unexpected demand suddenly sounds
that says, Okay, out of the pool.
The lingering effect of my experience of soaking in the River is that every time I am
worshipping the Lord, whether in Toronto or elsewhere, I now feel like I am actually in a
River, being buoyed in a flow that gently rocks and lifts me up. At the same time it flows
through me with cleansing and refreshment quenching my spiritual thirst with a priceless
drink of living water.
I am rather intrigued by the many varieties of responses people make to the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit: shaking, laughing, weeping, rolling, jumping, and crying out. At times
I have wondered if my husband, John, and I will ever respond with more than quiet tears
and laughter. As children we were never like other kids who jumped and squealed and
yelled, even during peaks of excitement. But we feel His presence just as deeply. Perhaps
the Lord will unleash dramatic reactions in us, too, someday. If so, that will be okay
Changes In Our Counselees
Now I am seeing a significant change happening in many people who come to our ministry
for counseling, and we attribute it to this new renewal in the Body of Christ. It used to
be that a great number of people would seek counsel and prayer in order to merely get rid
of their pain. Whenever people would only search for a self-centered good
life, they always had a problem. Now that the Holy Spirit is falling with great
love, casting out fear, denial doesnt block as many people as it used to, especially
men. This River is now motivating people to seek counsel for another reason.
Christians in this new renewal are increasingly concerned to deal with the things in
their hearts which block intimate relationships with family, friends, and with the Lord
Himself, not merely for their own personal emotional comfort, but in order to serve Him
and others better. Consequently many people who now come for emotional healing are more
aware of the need to take responsibility for their own sins, and to repent and make
choices to forgive and then to express love and healing to others.
Through what is happening in Toronto and elsewhere, the Holy Spirit is calling us to
learn how to look on the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4) He wants us to
learn to build up others lives and ministries more than our own. He wants, in this
new millennium, to build that corporate sense of heart and action among us which is spoken
of in Ephesians 4:16, that will build His entire Body into the fullness of His stature and
likeness. As the world hungers and thirsts for the Lord, it will see Him when His life is
manifested in a people who have learned to live His love for others. (John 17:21) We thank
Him for what we can experience in Toronto and take home to share with others.
(John and Paula Sandford, veterans of emotional healing ministry, are the authors
of the book, The Transformation of the Inner Man. For more than 25 years, their ministry,
Elijah House, has reached out to bind up the brokenhearted by training counselors and
holding inner healing seminars throughout the world.)